While out photographing in nature, we all occasionally find a subject that might be better photographed at another time of day for better lighting conditions. But to delay may result in losing the moment and a change in the subject. A caterpillar crawling by, a dragonfly visiting a patch of flowers, one thing eating another thing, all of these scenes will change in a few moments; never mind waiting until early light tomorrow morning. In the worst of circumstances I’ll make some captures just as a record shot to document I did see the event; however, I will try to alter the lighting conditions, by adding or taking away light if possible, to make a better image capture.
I was walking around in my yard which I left mostly wooded, and found a newly emergent pine tree with the seed pod still attached to the end of the pine needles. I set up and was rewarded with a nicely backlit pine tree, but with half the background in bright sun. What to do! I knew I would try to use Highlights and Shadows controls to brighten the shady area and knock back the bright area, as can be seen in the second photo. It is an acceptable result, but if I were done taking photographs, this post would be over also.
While maximizing the highlight and shadow adjustments of Lightroom results in an acceptable image, I know that I can do better, or at least different. And I better do it while I have a cooperative subject.
My approach here is to provide shade for the entire scene by placing my body between the sun and the subject. To accomplish this I need a couple of tools that I happen to carry with me whenever looking for small objects to photograph. First, the camera is placed on a stable platform such as a tripod or the Platypod if I’m getting very low to the ground, to keep the camera framed properly. Second, I control the camera using a remote control to trigger the capture. Although this can be a wired remote I prefer using a wireless remote because of the flexibility it provides. I’m no longer limited by the length of the cord plus the length of my arm. And third, I take advantage of the articulating screen on my camera body to be able to observe the scene I have framed in my camera, while I am maneuvering my body to block the sun. This ensures I properly position myself for the desired results.
By watching the monitor that I have flipped around to be facing me as I block the sun, I am able trigger the capture with the wireless remote when I am certain I am in the correct position. In the second image above, you can see the pine tree seedling in the green circle, the receiver of the wireless remote is on the ground to the right of the camera. To the left of the camera is a Litra Torch LED light on a Platypod Ultra, spigot adapter and small ball head. Before turning on the light, I made a few captures for comparison. The resulting image (below, left) has a nice even light to it, But the upper right quarter seems a little brighter than the rest of the scene. I feel my eye is being pulled from the seeding and to the upper right, but there is nothing significant there.
I dropped the overall exposure by about 2/3 stop and used the LED light to help separate the seedling from the dark background. It also brought out the texture of the seed and in the stem.
I used my body as a sun block and a remote control to trigger the capture in these two examples. For the Spotted Wintergreen I stood to the left of the plant while making the exposure.
For the red fungus growing on the side of the tree stump, the offending sunlit spot is to the far right of the subject. I set up the camera with the screen flipped around so that I could see it, stood behind the stump and held my hat in the path of the sunlight so that I cast a shadow in the correct location. In this case I also added a Litra Torch to the left side of the stump to light the underparts of the fungus.